Friday, September 2, 2016

Into The Deep

January 17, 2012 Stretched

I got a new military ID today; I definitely look older.

Before we took care of that, Keith had an appointment to get all his paperwork up to date.

I waited for him in the car, where it was quiet. Everything around was dark and wet with rain. As I waited for Keith, I watched the clouds lighten and begin to break up.

I was wrestling with something, some feeling, some kind of desperate longing and discontent.

I never have enough of Jesus. I want more, I am always searching for a way to have more and I get so frustrated when I cannot find the way or I don't remember the way.

And I wonder, am I doing something wrong? Is it because I have been bad in some way or have the wrong belief or the wrong attitude?

What? I wonder. What is it?

What is it that I want and why can't I have it and what is going on with me, anyway?

"And where I am going, you know the way," Jesus said to His grief stricken, bewildered disciples that night.

"We don't know where You're going, so we don't know the way!" protested Thomas.

Good ol' Thomas. He has a marvelous kind of integrity, that, even in his mistakes, he's just right up front about it. He doesn't try and hide it. He's just openly wrong or confused or doubting.

Was Jesus in the car with me, as the dawn broke?

Yes, He was. He was there, and loving and affectionate and I knew His care of me and that He understood my emotions and thoughts.

Not only did Jesus minster to me with His own presence, but also through songs on my gospel CD, songs that I heard and understood the words to for the first time, as well as through reading the Bible, when it got light enough to do so.

"Where am I at?" I asked Jesus, musingly, and then I saw. "Oh," I said, my heart sinking. "James. James is a frightening book. Should I read James, in the shape I'm in?" I asked Jesus.

I've walked you through the other books that held such terror for you, Jesus replied. Trust Me.

"Sure?" I asked Him, checking one more time, in my spirit, for His confirmation.

Go, He said, encouragingly.

And James, indeed, was not as terrifying as I had remembered it to be. It was as though I had never read it before at all.

Was all this from Jesus enough?

It was not. I wanted more.

I wanted Jesus more clearly, more present, more palpable. I wanted immediate answers to my questions.

In fact, I wanted out of this world altogether. I wanted my race to be run and all wrapped up.

All those passages in the Bible that talk about running the race with perseverance- I don't have that.

Or maybe I do, and this is what it looks like; what it feels like.

Maybe, just like courage is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of fear, maybe perseverance is not contentment with one's lot, but taking each agonizing, longing, weighty, cloudy moment at a time, continuing forward again and yet again in the face of passionate longing, displacement and discouragement.

Anyway, who cares if that's not wise; it's where I'm at.

And where I'm at is where Jesus is.

I get so frustrated with my failures. Everything that I do, that is not out of love, seems like a catastrophe. Any grumbling I do, any withholding, any confusion, any judging thought of another person, any even slight lifting up of myself within- all of it, all that- horrifies me and dismays me.

I want to be done with it. I know these things won't eternally define me; they'll get burned away and I'll be free!

But now, again and again and again, I have to yield my broken, confused and sinful self back into Jesus, though I am horrified that I must present myself that way.

But I know and I remember that He takes me that way. Jesus doesn't take me any other way, because I can't give my future perfect or wishful thinking self to Him, I have to give my actual, present-tense self to Him.

All my good things and eternal qualities lie in Him, my Creator and Redeemer and Savior. So I must go to Him, and He must take me as I am, in order to make me what I will forever be.

One day- oh, one day!- I hope this process will be seamless. I won't present myself to Jesus, because I will always live yielded to Jesus, continually trusting in His blood and His Spirit and His work.

I can do nothing in and of myself but to choose Jesus, to turn to Him immediately. I must cry out to Him and fall back into Him and trust and believe Jesus that when He says He will finish His work in me, that is exactly what Jesus will do.

In the meantime, these trials in me work to produce passionate patience, faith and hope.

I guess that's the point.

Wasn't it just yesterday that I wrote a blog about how being in the middle is hard- awful, in fact- but that it produces excellent things, so that one can thank God even in the midst of them?

Um.... yes. Yes, I did write that.

And don't I always beg Jesus to be further stretched and to grow deeper into Him and to understand His will and His plans more and more?

Yes, that is me. I did ask that.

Voila! My prayers are clearly being answered right now, through this wrestling.

News flash:

Jesus answers prayer.

January 18, 2012

Last night Keith had guard duty, so I was on my own in the evening. I tried watching some TV, but nothing was holding my attention, so I watched a documentary on Netflix.

Afterward, I felt Jesus nudge me to spend quiet time with Him, so I willingly turned the TV off and got ready for bed.

There was a lot of stuff to go over with Jesus, from everything that had happened that day, starting with my intense feelings of discouragement and confusion in the early morning, and all the things I had learned in the late afternoon.

In bed, I sat for a few moments just talking to Jesus, before reading. It was quiet and calm. I felt Him very close to me.

When I opened the Bible, I found I was at the first letter from Peter. As I was reading along, I got to this phrase:

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love..."
-I Peter 1:6-8a

As usual, that phrase, "Whom, having not seen, you love," just caught me like a hook and I was stuck there, although the verse continues on.

I can just see Peter's wonder and awe, all over again, at the fact that he is catching men for Jesus, just as Jesus had said he would.

And these men and women have never met Jesus in person, have never known Him or heard His voice or listened to His teaching in His own voice, or watched as the expressions passing over His face, and yet, they love Him.

But Peter had seen Jesus, of course. Peter had been very close to Jesus. Peter knew Jesus.

This thought produced in me a great longing and sorrow, which I offered up to Jesus.

And Jesus said, you know Me.

"No, I don't," I sighed. "I could never really know You. You're God."

You know Me, Jesus insisted.

I hesitated to contradict Jesus, but I honestly, in my human understanding, couldn't grasp what He meant; I didn't understand how it could be true.

"But I never knew You in person like..."

The flesh profits nothing, Jesus said, interrupting my thought.

I paused, and marveled. Jesus was quoting Himself, from the passage where He had declared that His flesh and blood were true food, and may of His disciples left Him.

He had said to them, "It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63)

Even as I was beginning to grasp what He meant, Jesus reminded me, very clearly, of what He had said to the disciples that last night:

"However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable (good, expedient, advantageous) for you that I go away. Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you [to be in close fellowship with you]."
-John 16:7, Amplified Bible

But you know what? I still didn't fully understand. I wasn't getting it, because my mind was so stuck on wanting to know Jesus in person- in the flesh.

I finished reading the rest of that book, then I read some of John and then I flipped to Luke and read about the start of Jesus' ministry.

I read about how He sat in Peter's boat, teaching the multitudes on the shore. And then, afterwards, Jesus says to Peter:

"Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4b)

Oh my goodness. That phrase just went on ringing and ringing in my head. I repeated it to myself over and over again, wondering.

Launch out into the deep...

How beautiful that sounds, beautiful and almost scary. Into the deep... What deep? What catch?

By this time, I was so tired that I couldn't read anymore, so I put the Bible away and called Keith to say goodnight.

When the light was out, I lay in the dark, resting in the close and loving presence of Jesus, thinking over everything I had read.

I thought about those words Jesus had said to me: you know Me.

Finally, I got it. I realized that, compared to how I had known Jesus before, I did know Him very well. I knew His voice and even sometimes felt His emotion.

My relationship with Him has exploded out into all directions and into such deep places, because I was growing more and more into the profound and deep truth that Jesus lives in me and I in Him.

That is an intimate way of knowing Him- even more than knowing Him in person. Knowing Jesus this ways leads to a huge catch of understanding and growth.

Then I was filled with wonder and adoration.

It is like this:

"But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God."
-I Corinthians 2:10-12

January 19, 2012 Musings on Being Taught

Only after I wrote yesterday's blog did I fully appreciate the lesson Jesus had been teaching me, or how perfect and seamless that lesson had been.

I thought, oh my goodness, He really is a great teacher! And He's so patient!

I could never have come up with something like that on my own; I wouldn't have made all the connections.

We are guided into the truth, not hit over the head by it all at once, is what I have noticed:

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."
-John 16:13

Jesus is always patiently building us up and guiding us along.